It's about time we put an end to this madness. Crunches that require spinal flexion are not merely ineffective but they are unsafe to do. A much better option exists - an option that challenges your core in a new way and eliminates unsafe stress placed on the spinal column.
The answer is the plank exercise. The plank is insane. The plank is an excellent isometric exercise that focuses on your entire core (not just the abdominals) and we all know the importance of having a strong core.
It's important to follow these instructions to pull off the right plank: First, lie face-down on a soft surface (i.e. find a mat). Next, push up and balance on your forearms and toes and ensure your body is in a perfect line from head to toe (don't let your butt sag down!). Finally, keep your abs contracted (squeeze!) and hold this position for as long as you can (or a designated training time).
One of the first time you do the plank exercise will be revealing as you'll quickly discover your (lack of) abdominal strength. Practice and consistent utilization of the exercise is key. The more you practice, the longer you'll be able to hold the plank and the more developed your core strength will become. Listed here are further tips to increasing your times for the plank.
Two Unique Plank Variations
The Side Plank
This plank modification targets the obliques (lateral portion of your core) more than anything. The idea is to balance on one forearm and the side of your lower foot, kind of like a side bridge. Ensure that the entire body is properly aligned. Perform the same exercise for both sides.
The Modified Plank
If you're just starting out with the plank exercise and can't hold a plank for more than 20 seconds, you'll find this modification very beneficial. For this modification, you will not be balancing on your toes; instead, you will balance on your knees and forearms. This is great for newcomers because it minimizes the stabilization required yet still challenges your core. Once you're able to hold a modified plank for over a minute, you can go back to a regular plank and see how you've improved.
The plank is a great exercise for building a strong core. Start off slow, use the plank variations if needed and keep practicing.
Here are some more plank variations that you can try.